PENDLETON, Ore. – Pacific Lutheran took a one-stroke lead during the first round of action Saturday at the Northwest Conference Spring Classic, hosted by Whitman College at Wildhorse Golf Course.
Linfield placed two golfers among the top-10 scorers, but clustered three of its five finishers towards the lower half of the leaderboard, dropping the Wildcats to fifth place at the nine-team tournament.
The defending NWC champion Wildcats, who shot a first-round score of 310, trail front-running PLU by 11 strokes. Whitman is one stroke off the pace at 300. In close pursuit is Whitworth at 303 and Puget Sound at 304.
Willamette (313), George Fox (316), Pacific (333) and Lewis & Clark (365) round out the team scoring.
Whitworth’s Stephen Plopper shot a 3-under-par 69 to lead all scorers, though four golfers are within four strokes. Whitman’s Scott Martin sits one stroke back at 70, Whitworth’s Jesse Salzwedel sits at 71, PLU star Dustin Hegge is at 72, and Linfield’s Alex Fitch carded a 1-over 73 over the opening 18 holes. A.J. Taylor (Sr., Kirkland, Wash.) shared 10th place with a 4-over 76.
Other Linfield scorers included Taylor Klopp (Jr., Eugene, Ore.), who shot an 80, Tommy Schmitz at 81, and Connor Magnuson at 82.
“We didn’t get off to a good start and we didn’t finish the round very well,” said Fitch. “We did play pretty well in the middle part of the round.”
Weather conditions were decent to begin Saturday’s tournament, but wind and rain soon settled in over the area.
“The conditions got to us a little bit,” said Fitch, the defending NWC champion. “We’re hoping to get off to a better start on Sunday put some pressure on the leaders.”
The NWC Spring Classic, one of three "major" tournaments of the 2011-12 competitive season, counts one-fourth toward determining the conference's team champion and automatic qualifier to the NCAA Division III championships.
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